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Secret Santa 2011 #2

December 24, 2011 3 comments

My second secret santa present arrived!!  This one is part of the Book Blogger Holiday Swap.  The lovely lady who sent it to me said in her card that she’d just started following me on twitter when she was assigned to me, but girl! I couldn’t make out your twitter handle!  So please do let me know who you are!  🙂  She individually wrapped everything in gorgeous paper that I, yet again, do not have a picture of because I ripped the package open as soon as I got it, haha. It contained:

3 books and a card

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly–I remember adding this to my wishlist around the time when I read The Birth House.  Basically, a historic 1906 setting with a young, independent woman and a murder mystery.  This is going to be an ideal winter read!

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston–I find it utterly fascinating that both of my completely unconnected santas got me the same book from off my wishlist!  I take that as a huge sign from the universe to get at this asap and also maybe to host a giveaway of it!

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon–Wow! This is not only from 2011, but also is a complete audiobook and certainly looks brand new. Thank you so much!  The book covers inter-racial relationships and the world of mental hospitals and mental illness, so basically it’s a cross-section of two topics I read a lot about.  I’m very excited to have this to read while working around my apartment, knitting, or running at the gym.

A beautiful card!  Currently hanging on my fridge.

Thanks for making my swap a wonderful experience, and please do out yourself thoughtful twitter follower!

Secret Santa 2011 #1

December 15, 2011 4 comments

My first secret santa swap package arrived, courtesy of Melissa of Gerbera Daisy Diaries! Yayyyyy!!  I’m not sure if it was via Book Blogger Holiday Swap or Broke and Bookish Secret Santa, since the package didn’t say, so that will remain a mystery for a bit!  Inside the envelope was a package wrapped in pretty blue wrapping paper and a red ribbon that I do not have a picture of because, well, patience is not a virtue I possess.  Here’s what was inside!

Books and postcards

From my wishlist The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston.  This made it to my wishlist thanks to a review by Amy for the Year of Feminist Classics project, and I’m super-excited to read it!  Melissa clearly paid attention to my tastes, because the other book, Red Scarf Girl, is a memoir by a woman who grew up during the Chinese Communist Cultural Revolution.  Nonfiction, women, China, Communism…..it’s perfect!  Melissa also included three bookmarks from the Arkansas public library system, as well as three postcards depicting art held by the Arkansas public library system.  Very cool!  The postcards will go up in my cubicle at the library where I work.

I enjoyed getting a package from a state I’ve never been to with representative art.  I’m more curious to pay a visit to Arkansas now!  Also, my Chinese culture collection on my TBR pile is much more fleshed-out now.  Thanks, Melissa!

Recap: Jersey Shore Season 3 Episode 2

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

This was a relatively dull episode featuring far too much Ronnie/Sammi drama, but the previews promise us that the next episode will include the infamous ARREST OF SNOOKI.  So we have that to look forward to.

The fight that started at the end of last week’s episode between Sammi and JWWOW quickly fizzles when a couple of big, black MTV bodyguards split the girls up.  This is intriguing because in previous seasons it was always the other roommates who split fights up, but this time they seemed content to watch JWWOW smash Sammi.  A dramatic camera close-up shows us that *someone* lost a fistful of hair, but it was unclear who.  I’m hoping Sammi.

Later, while Sammi pouts and Ronnie sits there trying to be a good boyfriend but clearly bored to tears, the roommates prep to go out.  Snooki and Deena remind us yet again that they are like totally “two peas in a pod.”  The men of the house then start a debate over whether Deena’s boobs are real or fake.  She informs them that they’re real, and then one of the guys asks, “What’s in boobs anyway?”  Deena says, “I dunno.  Fat?”  Dude says, “What about milk?”  Deena replies that she thinks that’s only there when you’re pregnant.  I have never face-palmed so much over a conversation in my entire life.

The roommates (minus Ronnie and Sammi) go out.  Vinny is convinced he has a stalker at the club.  If he in fact does, we all know it’s because of the show and not him.  He’s the most forgettable of the bunch.  Snooki gets trashed and randomly hides in a bush then informs the camera, “I will pee in a bush; I will poop in a bush; I will hide in a bush.”  ……Good to know?…….JWWOW brings her home and calls her boyfriend who’s randomly being pissy at her, which seems odd until he hangs up the phone with “and happy anniversary to you too.”  Oh snap.  JWWOW forgot their anniversary.  Um, dude, just a friendly suggestion here but maybe you should dump the girl who’s happier to be at the Shore than with you and forgets your anniversary?  Just a suggestion.

The most bizarre out of left field part of this episode occurs the next morning when Ronnie and Sammi get up and GO TO CHURCH.  If I wasn’t agnostic, I’d have fully expected them to get struck by lightning the instant they set foot in there.  Alas, we did not get to see them actually in the church, so I remain skeptical about that.  Maybe they just *said* they were going to church but really went and fucked on a beach somewhere?  I am baffled.

The rest of the crew rolls out of bed sometime in the early afternoon and are all pissed that Ronnie and Sammi took the car without like saying anything to anyone or leaving a note or anything.  They then all do GTL.  We get to see JWWOW do some punching, but it is far less cathartic than if Sammi had been on the receiving end of it.  The crew then cooks family Sunday dinner and are very peeved that Ronnie and Sammi aren’t there for it.  When Ronnie and Sammi get back, Ronnie looks like a beat up puppydog, and Sammi is just generally a bitch to everyone.  Naturally.  Deena sums it up best (shockingly), “I have no idea why Sammi’s here. She’s boring. She’s just there. She’s like furniture.”  Yes.  Bitchy, annoying furniture.

The next day Deena, Situation, and I believe Vinny “work” at the tshirt shop from last summer.  That owner has the patience of a saint.  Later, Snooki and Deena play kickball on the roof of the house, which is not in itself interesting, but when they loose the ball, Vinny comes to help.  He and Snooki make multiple blatant insinuations that when they hooked up, Vinny’s penis was too big for Snooki’s vagina.  I can’t decide if this means that Vinny has a huge-ass penis, or Snooki has a freakishly small vagina to go along with how short she is.  In any case, this has led to me imagining the two of them naked together, and I did *not* need that image in my head!

Later everyone, including Ronnie and Sammi, go out to the boardwalk.  For those who don’t know, the boardwalk on the Shore is basically a carnival.  It looks entirely awesome, and I don’t know how I missed going to it when I was on the Shore that one summer.  Ronnie actually starts running around having fun with everyone while Sammi stands in the middle of the street being pissed off and generally a wet blanket on the whole evening.  When they get home, Sammi tearfully tells Ronnie how much he hurt her when he cheated on her in Miami.  He tells her that he knows what he did was wrong, but “at least I came home to you every night.”  Sammi looks like she just got slapped in the face, and I suddenly feel sympathy for her.  She should have listened to her girlfriends instead of ostracizing them over the skeezebucket of a “man” that is Ronnie, but sometimes people in love do stupid things.

 

Recap: Jersey Shore Season 3 Episode 1

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Confession:
I have a guilty pleasure.  That guilty pleasure is trashy reality tv in general, but the Jersey Shore more specifically.  I watched the first season out of sheer curiosity, because I actually spent a summer on the Jersey Shore in undergrad.  I had an internship at Sandy Hook with the NPS, which is just up the coast a bit from Seaside Heights where the cast spends their summers.  I have seen this culture of which they speak.  In fact, I may have participated in it a wee bit, albeit as a pasty white nerdy girl.  In any case, I quickly realized that watching this show is like watching a train wreck, and I can’t keep my eyes off of it.  Season 2 in Miami was not as good, mainly because there was no New Jersey in it.  To my foreign readers who don’t know, New Jersey is referred to as the armpit of America for a reason.  In any case, this season is back in New Jersey, and honestly, I’m going to be streaming it every week on mtv.com anyway.  I may as well offer my snarky recap for you all.  Just…..avert your eyes if you can’t handle the trainwreck.

Recap and Snark:
The season opened as they always do with showing the cast members are home prepping for the SHORE BITCH.  We start off with Snooki, because the producers are not idiots and know that she is the break-out star of the bunch.  This is when we get the SURPRISE that there’s a new member of the cast, Deena, who we all already knew was a new member of the cast, because have you seen these people?  They can barely remember where their hair gel is, let alone how to keep a secret.

Deena and Snooki rant with a lot of oh my gawd’s that they are like totally the best friends ever, oh my gawd, they are like, clones of each other.  Beyond them both being short and stupid and not really realizing the latter, I’m not quite seeing it.  Snooki became an accidental star.  Deena is clearly jumping on the bandwagon.  Ok, maybe she’s a wee bit smarter than Snooki.

One of the more interesting things that Deena announces is that she and Snooki frequently go, “Guy shopping.”  Is that a thing?  Why isn’t there a guy store in my mall?  Can I get in on that?

Snooki, being as obliviously brutally honest as usual, announces, “I am so excited to hook up with my roommates!!”  Yes, Snooki dear.  We all know that’s the main appeal of the house.  Hot gorilla sex.

Everyone else’s intros are not very interesting.  DJ Pauly D apparently still lives with his mother. LOL  JWOWW has a boyfriend yet again who she is not getting along well with and can’t wait to ditch him for the Shore.  The Situation, holy shit, people, has more jewelery than I do.  Wow.  He has it all laid out on his bed, and I suddenly understand where all of his money has gone to.  Also, we discover that Sammi is from Hazlet, which suddenly explains why she is such a raging bitch.  Hazlet is not exactly a town that is known for its nice people.

Also!  We find out that Sammi and Ronnie got back together, and they are like so totes in love.  *eye-roll*  These people make me as irritated as Bella and Edward.  They are the non-pasty white trashy east coast version of the pasty white vampires of the west coast.  Gag me.

So then we have two successive blatantly obvious meddling of the producers moments.  First, everyone pretends like they like omg had no idea Deena was coming and Angelina was out.  Second, that it just so happens that Situation lands in a  room with Ronnie and Sammi.  Producers.  I don’t care how stupid these people are, there is no way that a couple would arrive first and choose a three person bedroom.  No way.  Stop messing with my Shore crew.  They do stupid enough shit on their own without you meddling.  Seriously.  Just sit back and let them be.  They’ll take care of the rest.

By far the most exciting return of the first episode is that of the duck phone!  I freaking love the duck phone; you have no idea.  It quacks!  It has a cord!  It leads to scenes involving a drunk Snooki in a trucker hat holding a duck’s severed body up to her head while sitting on a bean bag chair calling her boyfriend in the middle of the night!  That phone is epic.  EPIC I TELL YOU.

And then Situation meets Deena.  Oh snap.  This is gonna get interesting.  Situation is clearly mind blown by Deena.  Not that he has much mind to blow to start with, but still, this is rather odd.  Deena’s not unattractive, but she doesn’t seem like Situation’s type.  On the other hand, she does “accidentally” show him her hoo-ha on her first night there, so.  There is that.  She also asks him to help her go find her lucky hat which JWOWW and one of the guys (Vinny? Pauly? Who knows, who cares) take to be an innuendo for sex.  Would her va-jay-jay be the lucky hat in this scenario?  If that’s the case, they found it alright, but they sure didn’t put it to any use.

Situation’s fascination with Deena is perfectly summed up by his explanation of her, “If Deena was a holiday, she’d be Thanksgiving, because she has a lot to give and she’s down for a lot of stuffing.”  Thank you, Mike.  I will never look at Thanksgiving the same way ever again.

The other two main dynamics that quickly show up in the household are:

Snooki and Vinny.  They hooked up last season, and evidently something went down between seasons.  They both say they love each other, but Vinny slept with Snooki’s best friend?  And now Vinny won’t sleep with Snooki, because although he loves her, he’s gonna sleep with other girls this summer and he doesn’t want to hurt her? Okayyyy……..  This fight and revelation, naturally, takes place in the hot tub.

The other, and thus far more interesting one, is that Sammi is still being a bitch and Ronnie has apparently decided to hand his balls over to her.  Of course, looking at his vast muscle over-compensation, I’m gonna hazard to guess there isn’t too much manhood to worry about, if you know what I mean.  Sammi refuses to even answer Deena’s question about where she’s from.  That’s just…..pointless.  Why is she trying to be a bitch?  What’s up with that?  Later Deena tells Situation that Sammi is laughing at her.  Situation says no she’s not, and Sammi comes back with, “Oh yes I am!”  Oh. Snap.  Then Deena calls Sammi the c-word.  Yes, the c-word, which she totally deserves, and the girls all start fighting.  The best scene of the entire first episode was the shot of Vinny, Pauly, and Mike watching the girls (and Ronnie *cough* girl *cough*) fight.  Their heads bounce back and forth like they’re watching a tennis match, and they have these amazing half-grins on their faces.  Sammi takes a pathetic fake swing at JWOWW.

Sammi, dear, you do not fake mess with JWOWW.  That bitch has more balls than your boyfriend.  Naturally a fight starts to break out right at the end of the episode.

I cannot wait for next week’s girl fight.

Best Discoveries of 2009–Boston Places, Web Clips, and Recipes

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Yesterday you got to see my best discoveries–aka I encountered them for the first time–of 2009 in movies, tv shows, and websites.  The day before in my reading stats for 2009 you saw my favorite books I discovered.  Today I’ll be finishing up my discoveries lists with Boston places, web clips, and recipes!

Boston Places

  • The Friendly Toast (1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA)
    Known as a hipster joint, this restaurant serves breakfast/brunch foods all day long.  It’s decorated with fun vintage posters, many of which are scifi themed.  The portion sizes are huge!  You really get the bang for your buck here, and vegetarian options are numerous.  You even can get vegetarian sausage!  The servers are also super-friendly.  This is currently my favorite breakfast place in Boston.
  • Berk’s Store (50 JFK St, Cambridge, MA)
    I was hunting everywhere for waterproof knee-high boots without a heel, when I wandered into this store.  Crowded into a small space is the best shoe store I’ve found in Boston.  The styles reflect the needs of Bostonians–good for walking and the weather without sacrificing style.  The employees are friendly and–get this!–you can put a deposit on shoes and have them hold them for you to pick up later without paying anything extra.  This is great for if you find a great pair of shoes/boots but don’t want to drag them on your commute with you.
  • Boston Bed Company (1113 Comm Ave, Boston, MA)
    More than just mattresses, they offer bed frames, bedroom furniture, living room furniture, sofas, and chairs.  This business is locally-owned, and they understand Bostonian’s needs.  Everything is reasonably priced, the sales associates are friendly but also understand giving you space to wander about the store on your own, and you get free delivery (over a certain price point, which I forget right now, but I easily reached it when buying my mattress and box spring).  Definitely check them out for any furniture needs.
  • Hootenanny (36 JFK St aka The Garage, Cambridge, MA)
    The clothing off-shoot of Newbury Comics, this store is great for funky clothing, shoes, and bags.  I got my Glomits there, as well as a steampunk skirt and dress.  They also offer vegan shoes for my vegan friends.  The prices can be a bit steep on some items, but they have continuous sales which knocks them right down to reasonable.
  • Jacob Realty (279 Newbury St, Boston, MA)
    I had to apartment hunt this year, and after many phone calls that ended with me mad at an agent who couldn’t accept my price limit as a real price limit, I finally landed on Jacob Realty.  My realtor actually listened to me and treated me with respect, and she helped me land a great apartment!  Definitely check them out if you’re on the apartment hunt.

Web Clips (yes I know there’s a lot of cats on this list)

Recipes

  • Emeril’s Vegetarian Egg Rolls
    Confession.  I have a deep fryer, and for my housewarming party I wanted to use it.  I’d made egg rolls with my dad when I was a kid, but those were meat-filled (this was before I went veg).  Anyway, I was shocked to discover Emeril has a vegetarian recipe.  They require a bit of work what with making up the filling and wrapping them, but they came out very good.  Even my friends who don’t like egg rolls liked these.
  • Little House Apple Pie (The Little House Cookbook: Fronteir Food from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker)
    I’d gone apple picking with two of my best buddies, and I wanted to make apple pie.  The problem was that I’d never gotten the family recipe from my mother who I disowned, so I needed to find a good new recipe.  Omg, people, you should ditch family recipes more often.  This pie is so good!  Side-note, I always use Emeril’s Basic Sweet Pie Crust with my pies.
  • Vegan Sweet Potato Latkes (current issue of Vegetarian Times, apparently isn’t on their website yet)
    I wanted to make latkes for my Chrismukkah gathering, but wanted a healthier version than the traditional one.  I love sweet potatoes and already had a stash of them, so this seemed like it’d be cool to try.  Instead of eggs, the recipe has you boil some sweet potatoes and mash them to use for binding the shredded potato together.  I was skeptical as to whether this would work, but it totally did.  These were a big hit.

That’s it for my best-of lists!  Hopefully next year I’ll have more recipes to share with you guys.  I hope you all made some fun discoveries of your own in 2009.

Best Discoveries of 2009–Movies, TV Shows, and Websites

December 30, 2009 1 comment

You guys got to see my favorite reads of 2009, but what about all else entertainment?  I do, surprisingly, do things besides read with my (little) free-time.  So here’s Part One of my best of all-else entertainment list from 2009.  I’m not limiting myself to things that came out in 2009, just things that I encountered for the first time in 2009.  Consider everything listed as accompanied with the highest recommendations.

Movies

  • Coraline (2009)
    The story of a little girl rightfully frustrated with her parents who discovers another world is delightfully creative, but the animation is what makes this a must-see.  It is truly a feast for your eyes.
  • The Hangover (2009)
    Bust a gut, laugh out loud funny. A groom and his buddies go to Vegas a few days before his wedding for his bachelor party, and when they wake up the next morning, the buddies can’t find the groom or remember what they did the night before.  Uproariously awkward situations make you feel way better about that one night you can’t remember.
  • Inglorious Basterds (2009)
    A troop of American Jews led by Brad Pitt go on a Nazi-killing spree in WWII Europe.  Confession.  I fucking love WWII history.  I have ever since I was a kid.  I also absolutely love blood and guts movies.  The more gruesome the better.  I also love Jewish fellas (I blame my undergrad university for that one).  Additionally, I love Brad Pitt. *swoon* German is also my foreign language, so I didn’t even need the damn sub-titles.   Can you say must-see movie?  My only gripe is that not enough time was spent on the awesome group of American soldiers.
  • Kill Bill Volume One (2003)
    The Bride has a score to settle with her old boss Bill and everyone who helped him commit the slaughter of all present for her wedding day (not to mention almost killing her).  So many epic fight scenes.  So many bad-ass women.  Not to mention the whole blood and guts thing previously mentioned.
  • South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
    The boys’ parents get all upset when they sneak in to see the R-rated Terrence and Phillip movie, which clearly leads to a war with Canada.  This basically is South Park The Musical and gave us the gifts that are the songs “Uncle Fucka” and “Blame Canada.”  Top it off with a giant talking vagina, and you have a seriously hilarious movie.
  • The Shining (1980), review
    Jack takes his family with him on a live-in caretaker job in a remote, empty hotel in Colorado.  Did I mention the hotel is sinister?  It takes a lot for a film to scare me, and this did.

TV Shows

  • Lost (2004 to present)
    The tale of the survivors of a flight that crashed on an uncharted island.  I remember when this first came out that I avoided watching it because I knew I didn’t have time to get addicted to another tv show.  Netflix Instant spurred me into watching it, and holy shit.  This show’s mystery and scifi are so good that I am literally yelling at the tv (yes, I bought the complete set).  Me yelling at the tv is a sign of a good tv show, btw.  I’m on the fourth season and am bound and determined to catch up before the new season starts in February.
  • The Simpsons (1989 to present)
    That sound you hear is the collective shock of everyone reading this, but I seriously had never watched The Simpsons ever before this year. No, not even one episode.  I really can’t explain why.  I just never got around to it.  Well, now I get what the obsession is with it, and I’ve watched a ton of episodes, let me tell you.
  • South Park (1997 to present)
    No big surprise here with the movie listed above, but I also was newly introduced to this show this year.  The pop culture commentary is epic.  All you need to do is see the Kanye West fish sticks episode to understand.
  • True Blood (2008 to present)
    A small Louisiana town deals with daily life and the recent coming out of vampires with the Japanese invention of synthetic human blood.  This show has everything: bayou setting, vampires, sex, drugs, comedy, and mystery.  Watching an episode is like taking a vacation.  It also provided me with the hilarity that is me imitating Bill saying “Sookie is mine!” I can’t wait for the second season to come out on DVD so I can watch it!

Websites

  • Etsy
    Buy and/or sell handmade or vintage items and supplies.  It’s kind of like having a craft fair in your browser, and I love buying one-of-a-kind earrings there.
  • Regretsy
    My friends and I were doing what this blog does for a while–finding the hideous things people offer up as “vintage” or “handmade” on Etsy (not the majority of things found there at all) and mocking them.  This blog is sure to send many giggles your way. (or horror)
  • Sock Dreams
    I love wearing snazzy socks, tights, and legwarmers, and this website has the best selection for the best prices.
  • Tor
    I’m a scifi freak, and their theme months are great.  This month was Cthulu Christmas, for instance.  Also they host a bunch of amazing give-aways.

Coming up in Part Two, Boston places, web clips, and recipes!

Why New Year’s Is My Favorite Holiday

December 28, 2009 3 comments

Christmas is finally over, which means it’s time for my favorite holiday: New Year’s!  All week on the blog I’ll be doing a few special New Year’s related posts, starting out with why it’s my favorite holiday.

People often ask me why, out of all the holidays, my favorite is one where you don’t even get presents.  Well, there are a lot of reasons.

It’s secular. Everyone can celebrate without any of that religion or country worry and mumbo jumbo.  Even people and cultures who follow the lunar cycle can still also acknowledge the change of the Gregorian calendar.

You’re supposed to drink. Any holiday that largely revolves around drinking cocktails and champagne gets my vote.

There’s no societal expected norm as to who you should spend it with. It’s perfectly acceptable spend it with friends as opposed to family, but you can still spend it with family if you want to.  Nobody is going around asking me why I’m not off in some other state visiting family, and also my friends don’t all simultaneously disappear for the weekend.

Reflection. It’s a regularly occurring time to reflect on yourself, your actions, your life and have a palaver with yourself and make sure your life and your behavior are what you want them to be, which leads to

Resolutions. I am all about being a self-made person.  I’m about deciding who I want to be and working to be that person instead of just laying back and playing with the hand I was dealt in life, aka nature and nurture.  I take initiative and choice and use it to kick nature and nurture’s butt.

Clean slate. The new year isn’t exactly a clean slate, but you can make it one if you want to or need to.  You can also just make a clean slate in certain areas of your life.  Maybe there’s a friend you need to come to terms with or a habit that’s bad for you that it’s time to get rid of.

New Year’s is great in that it asks you to celebrate and enjoy life, but it also asks you to take a good look at your life and make sure it’s what you want it to be.  New Year’s is the best of both worlds–celebration and accountability.

5 Year Old Me and a Bag of Kitten Food (Virtual Advent Tour 2009)

December 23, 2009 12 comments

I decided to participate in the Virtual Advent Tour in which bloggers sign up for a day of the advent calendar to feature a holiday-centric post.  So, happy 23rd day everyone and welcome!  On to the post.

I grew up in rural Vermont with a brother 5 years older than me and my two working class, highly religious parents.  Since my parents were very serious about their Christianity, to the point that I was homeschooled until the 6th grade, Christmas was a big freaking deal.  Jesus being born was the fulfillment of many prophecies.  Without Jesus’s birth, there’d be no Easter and without Easter we’d have no hope at all.  Jesus’s birth was second only to Jesus’s death and resurrection, and that was only first because the Second Coming hadn’t happened yet.  Therefore, Christmas was one busy season for us.  I’m talking Advent Calendars, baking multiple goodies from scratch, multiple must watch specials and movies, two extended family gatherings, candlelight services, special church performances, and more.  Of course, me being a kid, the only truly important part of Christmas was the presents Christmas morning.  Although, you’d be hard-pressed to get me to admit it, and I would fervently state how much I enjoyed the family reading of the Christmas story from Luke between stockings and presents.

Since my parents fervently believed telling us that Santa was real was akin to telling us Muhammed was right, presents were gradually placed under the Christmas tree, and we weren’t allowed to touch them.  This led to hours of me sitting on the rug in front of the tree pining and wondering erm, *ahem* reading a book.  My brother and I became experts at determining what a present was just by its shape or determining what awesome present the unwrapped accessories under the tree went to.

Every year pretty much from the time I could talk, I asked for a kitty.  We had a dog, Beuaregard, but all I wanted was a kitty to snuggle and to feel purring on my feet when I slept.  Dolls shmolls, I wanted a kitty.  One December morning, when I was (I believe 5, definitely before I was 7) I came into the living room and came to a dead stand-still.  All you needed was to turn me to salt, and I’d be doing the perfect impression of Lot’s wife.  There under the Christmas tree was a bag of kitten food.  My heart raced and I did my best not to shreek in sheer joy, because a family rule of Christmas was if we guessed a present prior to Christmas morning, we weren’t allowed to have it.  It was the veritable don’t ask, don’t tell of holidays.  My mom wasn’t big into giving us what we wanted, she thought it’d be spoiling us, but my dad.  My dad always wanted to give us exactly what we wanted, and I was certain this bag of kitten food was his way of telling me that I’d have my kitty in a few short weeks.

Christmas morning came, and I impatiently went through the stockings and the reading of the Christmas story.  Present opening started, which was always a slow ordeal as we opened them one at a time while everyone watched.  My first present was not a kitty.  Ok.  So they were waiting to give it to me last knowing what a ruckus it’d cause.  I could wait.  Gradually all the presents were gone from under the tree.  Only the never-wrapped chocolate covered cherries and kitten food were left.

“Isn’t there something more?” I asked, as my parents got up to get some coffee.  My mom’s mouth opened to go into her ungrateful speech, but my dad cut her off asking, “Why do you think there’s something more?”

I pointed at the kitten food, “Well, there’s that bag of food there.”

“Oh, that’s a treat for the dog.  He loves cat food.”

No.  My dad had to be kidding.  He was a big teaser.  “What?”

“The dog loves cat food.”  At this point, my mom started tapping my dad on the arm, and recognition dawned on the two of them as I started to wail, “You mean I’m not getting a kitten?!”

According to family lore, I was inconsolable the entire day and crying a good portion of it.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May your day be filled with kitten-like presents.

The Joy of Doing Less During the Holidays

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

No doubt about it, the holidays are a busy time of year.  There’s presents to buy and wrap, parties to go to, people to see, travelling to do, baked goods to make, decorating to do, and more.  If you’re at all like me, it can all add up to stress.

Looking back on last week, I see that I did a lot of things that should have been fun, but I was so stressed out that the stress over-shadowed the parts I should have been enjoying.  I was constantly plotting to make it to everything (not to mention to stay awake) instead of just enjoying the moment.  I realized this yesterday, and worked to make my week this week less stressful, but thinking about it this morning, I remembered a blog post from one of my favorite zen blogs, Zen Habits, entitled The Lazy Manifesto: Do Less. Then, Do Even Less.

The jist of it is that minimalism isn’t just about what stuff you own.  Minimalism is also about doing less and enjoying it more.  I think the benefits of this are easy to see if you just think about the last time you were distracted doing one activity out of a worry to get to the next one on-time.  Now imagine if the first activity was the only one you were doing that day.  See how that works?

If you live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest, you don’t need to hyper-schedule yourself.  Instead of going to every single holiday party, choose two for the month to go to and really go all-out at them.  Don’t be afraid to tell friends or family no, you can’t come, you don’t have time, even if you don’t have time just because you want to spend that evening at home baking cookies and watching Christmas specials.

I really like this idea of doing less, but doing it to your fullest.  I think as Americans we have the tendency to overschedule ourselves for god only knows what reason.  Maybe some lingering Puritan philosophy about idle hands being the devil’s plaything.  Regardless, there is such a thing as doing too much during the holidays, so don’t be afraid to say no and limit just how many festivities you partake in.  Partake in fewer to a more full extent.  I think you might wind up surprised at how truly festive you’ll feel.

Indie Bookstores: Violet’s Book Exchange (Claremont, NH)

December 14, 2009 2 comments

Since I am known for meandering into any indie bookstore that I happen across, I thought it might be fun to highlight ones that I visit on my blog.  Obviously this will be a totally random recurring post.

As you all know, this weekend I was in Vermont (right on the border of New Hampshire) visiting my family.  My dad, knowing my perpetual love of books, suggested we stop in one of only two indie bookstores in driving distance of them–Violet’s Book Exchange located in Claremont, New Hampshire.

I had been there before, but not for a while.  When she started the business, Violet had a few bookshelves and an excellent store credit for books policy.  To my recollection, she didn’t have any new books.  Now she has two floors, a children’s room, and a wonderful mix of used and fairly priced used books.  She also features arts and crafts handmade by local people on one shelf, which is an excellent way for an indie bookstore to be connected to their community.

It’s not really surprising to me that this bookstore has taken off, as the library situation in that area of Vermont/New Hampshire is dire.  There is one medium-sized, up-to-date library located in Claremont, but most of the people in the area do not live within the district that would give them access to free library cards.  This is a predominantly poor, working class area of VT/NH, and most of the people can’t afford the exhorbitant library fee.  With often bad, still *wired* internet access, there is little to do.  Violet’s cheap used and new books with an excellent rate on books you yourself bring in for store credit really helps to fill that gap.  Violet clearly has business acumen, and I salute her for filling a much-desired need in the area.

While I was there, my dad picked up a cookbook (which I would totally provide a cover image for if I could remember what it was), and a book for me.  I present to you: The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket.  Seriously, what better Chrismukkah title is there than a Christmas story about a latke?  None that I can think of.  Also, it was only $7.50 for a brand-new hardcover book.  People, this is amazing.

To top it all off, the clerk asked us if we had any store credit.  I honestly answered that I used to, but I had thrown away the card after moving permanently to Boston.  (Yes, I should have given it to my brother, but I was being dumb and didn’t think of that).  Anyway, apparently in the meantime they’d computerized and lo and behold she found my store credit and we got to use it.  I was seriously impressed at this level of organization.

If you can visit Violet’s Book Exchange in person, I highly recommend it.  If you can’t, you can at least check out their website where you can get books shipped to you.  I encourage you to consider it, because this bookstore is vital for these small towns.